Sunday, March 21, 2010

How do I treat poison ivy?

The good news is poison ivy will go away without treatment in 1-3 weeks. There is risk of secondary bacterial skin infection but this can be minimized by keeping the area clean and dry and not breaking the blisters. If you notice increasing redness, warmth or swelling in the area you may be developing a secondary skin infection. This may require antibiotics.

There are many things that can be used to treat the itching and discomfort while the rash is present.

Some people may be helped by oatmeal baths, cool wet compresses or calamine lotion to decrease the itching.

Antihistamines such as benadryl, claritin, zyrtec or allegra can be used to stop the allergic reaction from spreading. They can also be very effective to decrease itching. There are also IV antihistamines that are used in the emergency department in severe cases.

We often use steroids in widespread cases. They can be used orally or as creams. Steroid creams can be used to decrease inflammation and itching but need to be used cautiously on the face. Severe cases need oral steroids such as prednisone. Prednisone is usually prescribed for 5 days but can be used for longer with gradually decreasing dosage.

How do I prevent poison ivy?
Wear long sleeves and long pants when working near toxic plants. Oil from poison ivy can seep through latex gloves so it is important to wear heavy duty vinyl gloves while gardening. Wash skin thoroughly after exposure. Avoid burning poisonous plants because the oils can become airborne and increase the spread.

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